In The Age Of Fake News And Trolling, This Is The Most Important Thing To Remember

Facebook logoEditor’s Note: With #NoPlace4Hate, Youth Ki Awaaz and Facebook have joined hands to help make the Internet a safer space for all. Watch this space for powerful stories of how young people are mobilising support and speaking out against online bullying.

You, who are reading this article – you belong to a generation that possesses tabs and smartphones; you are the ones who scroll, tag, share and upload instantaneously; you are the ones who do not walk but leap. We’ve taken technology and the internet so seriously that we keep going back to them to fill the voids in our life. If I take my own example, the intensity of my loneliness or job dissatisfaction is directly proportional to the number of updates I feed my timeline with. My timelines on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter show the world my beliefs – which I’m not able to act upon physically; the good quotes I caption my pictures with have an expiry date till I feel hollow again. Think about it. If you’re really enjoying the company you’re with, would you still click a gazillion pictures?

Do you stare at your phone like a predator, hoping somebody from the contact list would ping you? I know I do, and it’s killing me. The wait for the phone to ring, so that I can evaluate my worth in someone else’s life, is exhausting. But, even in the midst of that exhaustion, when the phone does not ring or the text message remains unanswered, my millennial brain concludes that I’m a nobody. All that I’ve been through; the struggles I conquered; the education I pursued, are reduced to nothingness because someone somewhere did not acknowledge my existence at a given time.

Do you watch the news and instantly form an opinion, because you read one article or one single statement that challenged your cognizance? Or, how many times have you read the headline of a piece and decided to believe what it wants you to believe without a shred of doubt?

And what exactly do you do when the same news article enrages you?

You post it, in the harshest way possible. And exactly there and then, you become the victim of what the convergent media proudly calls a strategy – click bait. Every time you’re making an opinion without knowledge of the past and without researching what really might have happened, you’re spreading hatred and anger. You think it does not matter? That one single post of hatred, bigotry and prejudice will be read by, let’s say, at least one fourth of the friend list you’ve created over the years. Even if 10% of those who read the headline agree with the hatred you scribbled on top of it and disseminate the equivalent anger on their timelines, another bunch of people with those negative ideas are born. It’s the ripple effect, and we’re a part of it. Because instead of making the most of the technological boom, our impatience to share (before convincing ourselves) is fueling more anger.

Have you ever trolled a celebrity or a fellow Twitter handler? Because in your opinion, they were spoiling the great Indian ‘culture’? Or because the gown they were wearing in some random gala event looked hideous to you? Pause a little, and think of the humiliation you’d feel if someone trolled you breathlessly, calling you or your friends ‘whores’.

Did your internet arguments lead to communal hatred or abuse? Or were you sensitive about a comment, which provoked you to defend the community and the god you associate with? If a social media user’s bashing crosses you, remind yourself that no matter who said it first – Gandhi or Martin Luther King – an eye for an eye, will always make the world blind. Period.

In the pursuit of understanding this generation’s problem, I spent long hours of what you may call ‘overthinking’, which led me to an answer – insecurity. We are afraid to lose people, status, worth, and impact. The social anxiety that a lot of young people like me are dealing with is, in the simplest term, toxic. We want everything to be perfect on camera, right from our hair, toenails, waistline, the infamous pout, and the list goes on and on.

This generation is expected to change the world, but how can we if the only change we’re concerned with is our display picture? In the quest for relatable content and social (media) recognition, we are all forgetting to live. We are, almost every day, pushing ourselves under the weight of false internet glory.

I’m proud to have been born in the age of the internet because I can share my ideas to a bigger mass. But I’m still pleading to my fellow millennials to pause a little bit, and enjoy the real moments – the ones, which can’t be tarnished by a troll; the ones that will help you evolve.

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